Most helpful critical review
93 of 102 people found the following review helpful
Not worth buying; barely worth reading.
on July 8, 2004
Frugal living is such a broad topic that one really can't expect all advice offered to apply to them; however, this book was evidently aimed at people living in at least moderatly large cities, and with families. It is also much more oriented toward the homeowner as opposed to the apartment dweller.
Even granting that, it is not really a worthwhile book. Some of the information is questionable; much of it that is really valid is so basic it's really below even common sense level (buy generic brands...duh!).
The book is in several parts, each of which I will review independtly.
Part one is about the adjustment to frugal living. It's really a mixed bag. I don't have kids, and my fiancee and I agree on the budget and goals, so most of the tips on how to cope with combative family members are lost on me. However, most of it is incredibly basic: catalog your expenses. Catalog your income. Decide what your priorities are. The one decent section is where she talks about how to maintain a positive outlook after the shift to being a cheapskate. Suggestions include a log of good things in ones life, and ideas of that nature. Still basic, but a step up from the other sections of Part 1.
The rest of the book is based on saving in differing areas: saving on groceries and food, saving on education, saving on clothing, saving on furniture, etc.
These sections really aren't all that great. For the grocery/food section, a large percentage of her ideas depend on having a lot of freezer space; the buying in bulk (esp. of perishables), the cooperative cooking (wherein a group gets together one day week, everyone cooks a full meal per group member; you freeze the meal and eat later). Probably at least half of the possibly good ideas dictate a chest freezer. If you want to impliment most of them, you might need two chest freezers. For those of us in apartments or small houses, that ain't happening. Lots of the other advice on foodstuffs is at best simplistic: buy generic brands. Buy (and freeze) massive amounts of stuff on sale. Duh. Buy stuff on clearance.
As for her advice on saving money on clothes, furniture, etc. most of it boils down to buy it second hand. The problem here is that many smaller towns don't have any decent second hand shops, and are frequently short on garage sales. I currently live in a town of maybe 10,000 people. I doubt that there are full million people within a 2 hour radius or better. We simply don't have the number of people to support the type of second hand market she's apparently used to having. If you live in or near a decently sized city, it's potentially good advice. However, one needs to be carefull, as searching high and low for clothing and furniture can actually wind up being expensive in terms of transportation, time, etc. Also, for people who have odd dimensions, second hand shops for clothes don't work too well. I have a hard enough time finding shirts that fit a short, thick torso with long arms as is. There's also the problem of quality. She mentions this in her book, and says to keep an eye out for the "gold nuggets", but in my experince, pawnshops don't have enough of those for it to be relaible.
Most of her advice on budgeting for kids and family stuff is beyond my reach; I've never had kids, and I'm not yet married. However, she fails to mention many good ideas for cheap recreation--memberships to zoos and gardens typically pay for themselves after a few visits. The National Park service sells annual passes for parks and refugess. Most states sell annual park passes. All of these are good cheap recreation, which my family used while I was growning up. None of them are mentioned.
Also, her idea of fun sounds odd, at least. She metions scheduling tours of resturants, factories,a nd the like as a fun family outing...I'd rather have a root canal than tour a factory or resturant (after working them...).
The advice on how to save for college and whatnot is sound enough, but basic: consider a two year school for the first year of college. Take AP and CLEP test, etc.
For those of us without families...well, at least 1/2 this book is about family expenses (education, proms, etc.). For those of use who live in rural settings...well, this book seems to written for a house owning city dweller, who can actually get to a good second hand market and keep two or so chest freezers in thier home. Even for those people, the info is so incredibly basic it's really laughable. I mean, c'mon, buy generic brands. Watch the sales. Prioritize your budget. Ya think?